Thursday 24 December 2015

Of Christmas Jumpers and the Like

Standing among my Irish sheep, sporting a Scotch Lamb
Christmas Jumper
(Rambling, Shaggy-dog story alert!) Way back a couple of months ago I was browsing around in Facebook and came across a rather eye-catching short video taken from one of these new camera-drone helicopters. It showed a hundred or two sheep being driven out of a barn and along a public highland road by 7 sheep-dogs and a couple of people on quad bikes or running behind the group till the sheep were then diverted left into a field. It was beautifully edited and ran to the exciting theme music of  "Mission Impossible".

I was quite taken with it and I was obviously not alone, thousands and then tens of thousands of people shared it and tagged it around the internet, 'liking' it (as you do on FB) and making amazed and delighted comments about how well the dogs worked and how much they enjoyed watching. In my case I wanted to know more and to see if there were any other such videos, so I looked into it and found that it was actually the work of a family farm in Highland Sutherland run by one Joyce C.

Santa's little helper?
Joyce runs a farm of a gazillion sheep up there and has recently won the Scottish "Sheep Farmer of the Year" award. She turned out to be a lovely, friendly person more than happy to share her life and work with all us "wannabes" on FB and I have had some lovely 'chats' with her, all be it in the limited way that you do on FB. She is also given to  a very Scottich sheep-farmer line in jargon and we (the fans) have some fun with her, persuading her to explain some of these terms - gimmers for example, or "driving the lambs out of the fanks after speaning".

On the left the pot formerly known as "our biggest pot". This
was never going to accommodate our 6 kg ham. 
In the run up to Christmas she was involved, via 'Quality Meat Scotland' (QMS) in promoting a Christmas Jumper sold in aid of a charity of which I must confess I had never heard. RSABI (Royal Scottish Agric' Benevolent Inst') looks after old folk down on their luck, who have made their living on the land (crofting, forestry, farming and so on). How could I resist? I ordered one and promised to send photo's in to RSABI, QMS and Joyce herself if these might be of any use to them.

Merry Christmas, Mum.
Meanwhile in my own run up to Christmas, after a bit of a fight in which we completely failed to get some flowers delivered by a Swindon florist down to Mum (Pud Lady) who is spending Christmas with my brother (no names for this florist and no packdrill) we would like to big up the Flower Factory of Farringdon Road (Swindon) where lone ranger 'Rachel' saved our lives by being able to do the order exactly as asked. Because Mum is a keen gardener and plantswoman we always ask for something a bit unusual in the species line to be included and because she does not do the girly pinks, we ask for hot colours (red, orange, yellow). I phoned this order in to Rachel at around 2 pm on the day after the failure (ie the 22nd of Dec - she would have been well justified in saying she was snowed under) and they managed to get this lovely arrangement out to my brother's place by half past 3! An angel, surely!

Doing a happy dance while wandering about on loose planks.
And a fine 'landmark' achieved out at the Sligo house rebuild for Christmas Eve-Eve. The boss out there has been working like a demon over the last couple of weeks. The walls of the extension have gone up to roof height and now been bonded in to the old walls. I helped last week to make the 'ring beam' around the tops of walls. The top stack of the old chimney has been pulled down using the digger to land with a loud rumbling roar in what will be #1 daughter's bedroom.

The start of a roof!
I spent a morning clearing up all that mess and masonry while the boss put up stud-walling to divide the space into future rooms and then, after I'd gone, whizzed round the place installing joists and the wall plates so that yesterday we could leave the 'wet trades' (cement, concrete) behind and start on the roof. This was exciting enough for me, who had never done one, but for the boss, a carpenter by trade, this was very Heaven. "Wood!" he shouted joyfully, "Hammers, nails, chisels and saws!" Number 1 daughter joined us for that day, back from college, so we got on like a train - with people to hold ends of rafters while they were hefted and nailed into place at the other end, and all the lengths pre-cut before we started hefting, we could get each straight simple section (15 pairs of rafters in each, or there abouts) in about an hour each.

Builders' pie. The bricklaying trowel serves as delicate cake slice!
There though, we had to leave it for the day as the boss had a job to do in Dublin. The task of joining these 'L' shaped ends together at the elbow is much more complicated as it involves 'valley' boards and ever shorter 'creeper' rafters plus there is currently nowhere to walk while you join the bits. I have been off doing our own Christmas prep today but I think boss and daughter were out there today, so they may have got into this job.

That just about wraps it up for us pre-Christmas. I wish all my readers the very best of Festive Seasons and a lovely time with you and yours.

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